Thursday, 14 July 2016

Paul Sellers Essential WoodWorking Hand Tools - A review - Part 1 the book

This book by the fantastic English woodworker Paul Sellers or as he calls himself "an amateur woodworker" has been anticipated for a while. There is also an optional 3 disc DVD called "Using & Sharpening Essential Woodworking Hand Tools". I bought both. For those who are unaware Paul started training as a woodworker in 1965. He has also taught many thousands of people through courses both in the USA and the UK. So he has more than 50 years of experience and has reached even more people with instructional videos of woodworking techniques and now broadcasting via the internet. A lot of his videos are freely available on his Youtube channel. Check them out if you are interested.

Sharpening Equipment

The book itself is a hardback tome of 480 pages. The opening chapters cover sharpening equipment, stones, files for sharpening saw teeth, sawsetting the teeth and burnishing for card scrapers. Emphasis is made on keeping the tools as sharp as you can. When they start to become blunted go back to the sharpening station and touch them up ready to go with the minimum of downtime.

Layout Tools

The second group of chapters cover tools for laying out projects. Squares and measuring tapes are covered. The use of a marking knife is emphasized. Paul favours the use of a double bevel knife whereas I myself prefer a single bevel but with a diamond point. Paul likes to use a marking gauge with a point whereas I like the Veritas wheel gauge. But he points out the good and bad points of either. There is also a section of sliding bevel gauges. I now know the limitations of mine as pointed out by Paul's concise argument.

Chisels and Gouges

The third group of chapters covers chisels and gouges. He discusses the various types such as firmer, bevel edge, mortise and butt chisels. He concludes that the most useful are bevel edged chisels with firmer and butt coming lease useful. He goes on to discuss sharpening techniques for chisels. Then he moves onto gouges. Who knew that there was a numbering system for gouges? I certainly didn't. He also goes to show how he keeps gouges sharp and in optimum condition.


The fourth group of chapters covers planes. This is a very interesting section of the book and he poses a few questions:

  • Should you have one of every number of bench plane?
  • Do you need a jointer plane for levelling?

His answer was surprising to me. Essentially if you buy your wood pre-milled or use power tools to mill your stock (I do the latter) then the answer is no. Most of Paul's work is done with a #4 smoother including rapid stock removal and jointing. He seems to use mainly old Stanley planes that he's owned since he was knee high to a grass hopper or has refurbished. That sounds like a similar way to how most woodworkers have obtained their planes.
He also covers spokeshaves his own favourite is a Stanley 151 bevel down. He finds that particular plane is good for difficult grain.
Plough Planes
Then he has a section on the plough plane preferring the Record 043/044 models. There is also a discussion of older wooden planes and shows how smooth they are.
Router Planes
There is a chapter on the router plane and this concludes with how to make a "Hags Tooth" or poor mans router plane. Basically knocking a chisel through a block of wood. There is also a video on his Youtube channel showing how to do this.


The next three chapters cover saw sharpening, handsaws, backsaws and the coping saw.
He shows how to use the 3 square file to sharpen the teeth on saws. How to use a sawset and support the saw in a saw vice. There is a section on possible errors you may come across while using a saw, how to identify and correct the issue.
There is an extensive section on the types of saws you may encounter and how to hold a saw. You may have thought that there is only one way but Paul shows you the best way in his opinion.
This section concludes with that much underestimated saw the coping saw.

Abrading Tools

This section of two chapters covers scrapers, rasps and files. The scrapers cover the card scraper and cabinet scraper. There are recommendations on what hand stitched rasps a beginner should just. Not the brand but the lengths and grain (roughness) that is best suited for a new user.
Paul also makes use of engineering (metalwork) files in woodworking as it produces a fine finish after using a rasp.

Boring tools.

Drills and boring tools follow in three chapters dedicated to Brace and Bit, Hand Drill and Square Awl. I have a brad awl for starting holes but never thought to get one of these bird cage awls that can be used to start a hole or bore one right the way through stock. My brace drills are currently up on the wall of the shop collecting dust. I shall have to dig them out.

Striking tools.

Hammers and mallets come next. Paul likes the Thor nylon headed mallet and uses it for chiselling and the other side for tapping joints together. There is also a discussion on the steel hammer that everybody is familiar with.
The last chapter covers large wooden mallets. Particular attention is given on how to construct your own mallet, wood selection, drying the wood if necessary and making a mallet to last a lifetime. This is a good exercise for a youngster or a beginning woodworker.


The last section show how to maintain and care for your hand tools followed by a glossary.

The book is illustrated with excellent colour photographs throughout. There are also clear drawings by Paul. The book is highly detailed and conveys Paul's opinions based on his long experience in all things wood. As they are his opinion others might not agree with some of the text but it is very well worthwhile considering. The book is very definitely an excellent resource that is worthwhile reading. It is useful for beginners through to long in the tooth woodworker and is a great addition to any woodworking library. This is not a cheap book but is available from various sellers worldwide.
Go to for a link to where to buy this.

Currently on sale in UK via Amazon at £38 GBP including shipping.
in the US it is on sale at Highland Woodworking at $55 US + shipping

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